History


GLORIOUS PAST

 

[Extracts from the Travancore State Manual, by Sadasyatilaka Sri. T.K.Velu Pillai, Volume IV (published in 1940 and reprinted in 1996 by Kerala Gazetteers Department, Thiruvananthapuram]

CHAPTER XXXII.
PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT.


The development and activities of this department may be considered under the following heads:

  1. Organisation and control,
  2. Communications,
  3. Buildings and other works,
  4. Irrigation,
  5. Maramath,
  6. Railway,
  7. Electric Supply,
  8. Water Works and Drainage.

Organisation and control: Till the year 1008 M. E. there was no distinct agency for the execution of public works. In that year the Maramath Department was formed as a branch of the Huzur Cutcherry with an executive branch known as the Panivakai Maramath. In the year 1011 M. E. Lieutenant Horsley was appointed Engineer under this Government and subsequently, when he took up employment as Engineer in the Tinnevelly and Madura districts, he was requested to inspect and direct the Maramath Works in this State. This arrangement continued for some years (from 1836 to 1854). A small establishment, consisting of a surveyor and a draftsman, which had been attached to the Residency at Trivandrum to work under the orders of General Cullon, was absorbed in the P. W. Department which was newly created. Mr. Collins was appointed Civil Engineer of the State in 1035 M. E. He was succeeded by Major Greenway who was in turn succeeded by Mr. Barton in 1038 M. E. What was only a small establishment under Mr. Collins soon expanded itself into a large department after Mr. Barton's appointment.

The allotment for public, works in Mr. Collin's time was but a lakh of rupees. It doubled itself in the time of his successor and went on increasing until it soon became necessary to introduce some means for checking the expenditure of the Department. Steps wore accordingly taken in. 1049 M, E. to bring up the arrears of account, to account for past expenditure by completion of bills and to enforce the system of budget allotment for the future. The Administration Report for the year 1048-49 M. E. says:-

"The effects of the large outlay on public, works are already manifesting themselves in various directions. The new roads of which very nearly 1,000 miles have been either completely opened or are in various stages of progress have tapped an enormous tract of the country hitherto almost inaccessible, giving fresh impetus to agriculture. New trade is springing up where it was before unknown or exceedingly limited and intercourse is being established and expanded at various points and between this State and British India; and in this place it may not be inappropriate to record the great zeal and untiring energy with which our Chief Engineer Mr. Barton has laboured and successfully brought to completion works which will do lasting credit to his name."

The budget system was started in 1047 M. E. and the expenditure of the department brought under due control. The prosperous condition of the State finances in the year 1053 M. E. enabled the Government to provide a much larger allotment for Public Works; than in the previous years and a new scheme was draws up for auditing the accounts of the department.

With a view to ensure greater efficiency and to place the department on a more efficient basis, the salaries of the executive and ministerial staff wore enhanced In the year 1071 M.E. New rules, based on those in force in British India were passed in 1073 M.E. to keep the expenditure within the sanctioned estimates and the accounts branch of the department was strengthened. The P. W. D. Code was introduced and a new audit section opened in the Chief Engineer's Office in the year 1076 M. E. This system continued till 1086.M.E. when the department was reorganised again. Deputy Chief Engineer's post was created and the number of Executive Engineers, Assistant Engineers, Sub-Engineers, Supervisors and Overseers increased. Their salaries also wore enhanced. In the next year the ministerial and the lower subordinate establishments of the department were reorganised and the staff of the sub-divisional offices strengthened. A further reorganisation of the department involving important alterations in the territorial limits of the divisions and sub-divisions and a revision of salaries of the non-gazetted staff was brought into force from the 1st Kanni 1098. The rules for the occupation of the travellers bungalows and camp sheds were revised and all camp sheds thrown open to the travelling public on payment of the fee fixed for the second class travellers' bungalows. All government departments were required to place their orders for articles of furniture with the P.W.D. Work Shops. This increased the out-turn of the Work Shops and led to considerable reductions in the charges. Closer scrutiny was exercised in checking estimates in regard to quantities, rates and designs.

On the recommendation of the Retrenchment Committee the staff of the department underwent some reduction in Kanni 1108. A new Irrigation division with three sub-divisions and nine sections was formed from the 6th Minam 1109 to carry out the irrigation works in the State, excluding the area commanded by the Kothayar Project. The Water Works and Drainage branch was separated in 1110 M. E. and organised into a separatist department under the control of the Water Works and Drainage Engineer who was made directly responsible to the Government. The Chief Engineer has since then been in charge of roads, buildings and irrigation. In 1111 M.E. (1935-36) the administrative staff under the Chief Engineer consisted of 7 Executive Engineers in charge of divisions 8 Assistant Engineers and 8 Sub-Engineers in charge of Sub-divisions and Supervisors and Overseers in charge of sections.

Communications: Shortly after Mr. Barton assumed charge as Engineer, he submitted a proposal to introduce iron screw pile Communications and girder bridges. Several good and useful roads were opened in all directions consigning the old palankeens to desuetude and bringing spring carriages into use instead. In 1052 M.E. Mr. Barton proposed levy of tolls on the roads in order to provide funds for their maintenance. The growth of trade on the new roads, particularly the Pirmede Ghat road, was very satisfactory. The Madura district which was till then accessible only through south Travancore and Tinnevelly was brought into direct communication with north Travancore. The construction of the main road from Trivandrum to the northern frontier, a distance of 156 miles, was taken up in the next year. This important means of communication through the centre of the country was circulated to develop the internal trade. It opened up vast fertile forest tracts which wore suitable for cultivation. The construction of another road from Muvattupula to Thripunithura was also begun. The Dewan's tour to the hilly tracts led to the construction of sathroms, travellers' bungalows, cart stands and other facilities for way farers along the line from Gudalore to its junction with the water communication in the north Travancore plains. A law was passed in the same year prohibiting encroachments on roads and other public works.

The fine suspension bridge across the Kallada river at Punalur, the construction of which was begun in 1047 M.E. (1871-72), was satisfactorily completed at a cost of Rs. 2,74,451 and thrown open to traffic in 1055 M.E. (1879-80). The important work of tunneling through the Varkala cliffs, commenced in 1044 M. E. (1868-69), was completed in the next year. Continuous water communication was thus established between Trivandrum, Alleppey, Cochin and even Thirur railway station in Malabar.

A navigable canal from Kottayam to Vaikom was constructed in 1064 M.E. (1888-89). Decisive stops were taken in 1069 M.E. (1893-94) to extend and improve the road system in the interior parts of north Travancore. As a measure of relief to the travelling public arrangements were made to construct wells along the Main Southern Road from Trivandrurn to the Aramboly frontier. The question of improving the canals and backwaters with a view to render them fit for steam navigation was taken up for consideration in 1079 M.E. and the formation of a separate Sub-division to deal with the subject sanctioned. The total length of communications maintained by the department in 1081 M.E. (1905-06) was 2,224 miles of which 330 miles were
planters' roads, 774 miles village roads, 360 miles traces and 156 miles canals and backwaters.

A steady policy of devoting more money for communications was kept in view and pursued, and special attention was paid to the construction of new roads in north and central Travancore. The bridge across the Periyar on the Kottayam-Kumili road was completed in 1083 M.E (1907-08) A number of investigations regarding road works were taken in hand in 1088 M.E. (1912-13). The demand for road extension was great when it was discovered that the absence of minor roads retarded development considerably, and the ryots continually offered to cut these roads if the Durbar gave the necessary land. In certain places the land was forth coming and the Chief Engineer, Mr. Bastow, accordingly submitted a scheme for the creation of Taluk Road Boards. Ample facilities were afforded to the ryots by means of advice and alignment in the matter of laying out new roads. The department also undertook to take over the finished roads for maintenance and to construct the necessary bridges and culverts. The total length of communications in 1101 M.E. (1925-26) was 4,769 miles or, 6 miles for every square mile of the area of the State. The investigations for a road from Kothamangalam to Munnar via Neriamangalam, Mannankandam and Pallivasal wore completed in the next year. The coastal regions in central and north Travancore were connected by the construction of the roads from Quilon to Alleppey, Alleppey to Sherthala and thence to Arur, thus establishing a through road connection from Cape Comorin to Arur. The Ghat road from Neriamangalam to Pallivasal which forms the new western outlet from the planting area of the High Ranges to the low lands on the west was commenced in 1103 M.E. and the road opened to traffic, in Minam 1106 by Her Highness the Maharani Regent. This road has a promising feature as it is expected to divert traffic, from the planting district, from the east coast to the west coast.

Notwithstanding the steady increase in the total length of roads every year there was persistent demand for more roads. To solve this problem it was proposed to organise a Road Board for each division and a Central Board for the whole State and to associate the representatives of the people with these Boards. A few municipalities took over the maintenance of the non-arterial roads within their territorial limits. There was also the system of ryots' roads under which the people themselves opened the roads, the department merely advising alignments and constructing bridges and culverts. Boards were constituted in 1104 M.E. (1928-29) to advise the Government and the P. W. D. in the matter of opening, improving and maintaining roads, bridges, and waterways in the State. The roads thus opened served important planting areas and industrial centres and connected internal waterways and ports.

The opening of these roads was not in itself important owing to the absence of bridges across the main rivers over which these roads pass. To cross the Nindakara Bar over the Quilon-Alleppey Road a bridge, a quarter of a mile long, was commenced in 1104 M.E. and completed in Medom 1105. It was opened to traffic by Her Highness the Maharani Regent in Edavam 1105. The bridge at Neriamangalam across the Periyar was commenced in 1108 M.E. and was opened for traffic by H. H. the Maharaja in Kumbham 1110.

The Government have thus long recognised the importance of good communications and the need for their steady improvement. The phenomenal development of motor traffic during recent years led to the elaboration.of a programme for widening the old highways to suit modern requirements and to the allotment of increased maintenance grants. For years past the major portion of the expenditure incurred by the P. W. D. has been under communications. The cost of maintaining the roads increased from year to year. Apart from the annual maintenance charges considerable sums were spent on improvements, especially in the shape of remetalling. Owing to the heavy motor and other traffic on most of the roads the question of keeping them in a fit condition engaged the special attention of the authorities. All trunk roads were periodically resurfaced with water-bound macadam consolidated by means of heavy steam rollers. As this method of surface renewal does not withstand the present day traffic, more modern methods, such as tarring, bitumen painting and concrete surfaces, are being tried. As an experimental measure a short length of the main southern road was tarred and the result was successful. The first cement concrete road in the State was experimented in 1108 M. E. the portion of the Trivandrum-Shenkotta road in the Trivandrum town:, between the School of Arts and the L.M.S. Church junction, being selected for the purpose.

Then was steady improvement in the maintenance and lighting of the backwaters and canals after the passing of the Canals and Ferries Regulation and practically there were no complaints regarding the shallowness of the canals, with the development of the Cochin Harbour, the question of the development of water transport was seriously considered. Transport by water is the cheapest form of transport. The traffic in backwaters is served by steam and motor vessels throwing the large amount of vallom tonnage on to the rivers and inland waterways. The need therefore for improving such means of communication has become essential. Agriculture, trade and industry also demand the extension of vallom traffic to inland tracts. Mr. John Kurian, Executive Engineer, was placed on deputation to investigate the possibilities of improving the navigable rivers in the State and he submitted his report on the 28th October 1925. This is what he says about the improvement by artificial means of the natural facilities carried out at the coat of the general revenues of the state:-

"From very early days these natural facilities have been improved upon by artificial means. The earliest cut canal about which, have any information was what is now known as the Alleppey Commercial Canal. The Parvathi Puthanar connecting the capital with the Veli and Kadinamkulam lakes and joining on to the Anjengo backwater and the Vgmanapuram river was cut during the reign of Rani Parvathi Bai. Some canals were cut near Paravur and Edappally by a Namburi called Tholan who is said to have been the Prime Minister of the Edappally Chieftain. The Varkala barrier was pierced by two tunnels and opened for traffic in 1877 M.E. thus connecting the water communication near the capital with the northern system. This was part of an extensive project designed to connect Cape Comorin with Mangalore. The projected extension south of Trivandrum was called the Anantha Victoria Marthanda Varma Canal. The beach between the Vilinjam and Manavalakurichi south east of Colachel was partly cut. Of this the portion from Paravur to Thengapattanam, i.e., from the mouth of Neyyar to that of Kulithura river is still maintained and used. But the very high cost of Varkala tunnels seems to have deterred Government from attempting the tunnel portion from Kovalam to Vilinjam and so the Project was abandoned. A direct canal from Kottayam to Vycome and another from Kottayam to Vembanad lake on a bee line from Kottayam to Alleppey was cut by the P.W.D. during the time of Mr. Rama Rao, Dewan Peishkar of Kottayam (afterwards Dewan). About twenty years ago, the Trivandrum canal was extended to the Karamana river, joining it near Thiruvallam. In 1906 M.E. a canal Sub-division was formed with the object of pushing on the improvement of navigation. The steam and motor boat route between Quilon and Alleppey was improved by dredging and by raising of bridges to accommodate large boats. A small suction dredger was purchased for further dredging on this route and a small bucket dredger for dredging on the Parvathi Puthanar".

Meanwhile vast improvements to the Harbour at Cochin were commenced and this State was permitted to co-operate in the project. It has become therefore essential that the question of improvement of the facilities for all water transport which will be in touch with Harbour should receive a new impetus. The people of north and central Trvancore generally and their representatives in the popular Assembly and Legislative Council pressed pressed the importance of speedily improving the natural facilities existing so that the water ways may be used at all reasons and by all craft likely to be used on them.

As a result of the investigation conducted by Mr. Kuriyan he made definite recommendations for the improvement of the waterways. His proposals among others comprised the maintaining of deep water channel for vallom traffic in hot weather in the middle region of the Periyar up to Malayattur and in the middle region of Muvattupula river, for deepening (1) the Pampa river near Edathua and near Arattupula and Ranni crossings, (2) 12 miles of the Mavelikara river between Valiaperumpula and Kollakadavu, (3) the Kuttemperur river between the Perumala branch of the Pampa river and Tharayilmukku, (4) a portion nearly 30 miles long of the Kallada river from Mattathur crossing down to the Ashtamudy lake, and (5) a portion nearly 10 miles long of the Ithikara river between Ithikara and Velinallur, ware sanctioned and these portions of the rivers have bean brought under regular maintenance. The other proposals are being materialised.

A scheme to improve and modernise the existing water transport in the State has also been taken up for consideration by the Transport Reorganisation Committee.

Buildings and other works: The construction of new Sirkar buildings was taken up by Mr. Barton not long after he took charge of the P. W. D. Several new buildings were put up, the most attractive of which was the Public Offices. The construction of the Napier Museum was undertaken and considerable progress made in 1049 M.E. (1873-74). New sathroms were built for accommodating travellers. The charity feeding homes situated on the old lines of communication were removed and located on the new roads. Measures were taken in 1053 M.E. (1877-78) to provide a suitable building for the Pre-paratory School at the capital as well as for a Court house, travellers' bungalow, magistrate's residence and other buildings at Pirmede. The Museum buildings and several bridges were completed and others were in good progress. Proverthy cutcheries and granaries which wore formerly maintained by the Maramath Department were transferred to the P. W. D. in 1069 M.E. (1893-94). The streets in the capital were illuminated with gas lights in 1073 M. E. (1897-98). The most important new buildings and bridges were constructed in reinforced concrete, a process which was first adopted in Travancore in. 1075. M.E. (1900) and in which the State P. W. D. has attained high efficiency.

A detailed account of the Kothayar Project and other Irrigation main irrigation works is given in the chapter on Irrigation in Vol. III.

Maramath: As already stated, the Maramath Department was formed as a part of the Huzur Office in 1008 M. E. The Tahsildars were ex-officio out-station agents. This department was employed in ordinary original works and repairs in connection with the public offices, palaces and pagodas. In 1053 M.E. the Maramath grants were re-adjusted with a view to entrust the more important works to the Chief Engineer. The expenditure was regulated under a system of regular estimates, completion bills and other necessary returns. The budget head 'maramath' gradually included the expenditure incurred by the various executive agencies other than the Chief Engineer's Department. Those agencies were the Panivagai and Copper Foundry Department at the capital under the supervision of the Huzur Maramath Sheristadar, the Division Maramath under the control of the respective Peishkars, the Commercial, the Forest, the Cardamom and the Salt Pans Maramaths in charge of the heads of the resective departments, and the Irrigation or Tank Department in the south. The Panivagai Department at the capital charged with the execution of works connected with the palaces, temples and religious institutions inside the fort, was placed under the control of the Palace Sarvadhikaryakar. The department was reorganised in 1081 M.E. (1905-06) and its works confined to palaces, devaswoms, choultries and other charitable institutions. These works were placed under the immediate charge of the Tahsildars subject to the supervision and control of the Division Peishkars. Many incomplete works were finished in 1088 M. E. (1912-13).

In 1097 M. E. (1921-22) a new Maramath Department was formed under the control of an Executive Engineer of the P.W.D. and Tahsildars and Division Peishkars, were divested of their control over Maramath works except maintenance and repairs. With the creation and organisation of the Devaswom Fund devaswom works excepting annual repairs and maintenance were entrusted to the Maramath Department with funds placed at its disposal from the Devaswom Fund, the accounts thereof being kept distinct from those relating to Maramath proper. A redistribution of the Maramath circles and section offices was sanctioned in 1104 M.E. and brought into force from the next year. In 1111 M.E. the department was under the independent charge of a Maramath Engineer with five Circle Officers under him. Early in Chingam 1113 the Maramath Department was absorbed into the P.W.D. the staff of the latter department being slightly increased to cope with the additional work.

Town Planning: A Regulation for the Town Planning of the State was enacted in 1108 M.E. called the "Travancore Town Planning Regulation IV of 1108 ". Investigations were carried on, and estimates and plans got ready for the different proposals for road improvement in the Trivandrum town under the scheme and a beginning was actually made in this direction by the conversion of the portion of Trivandrum-Shenkotta road between Vellayampalam junction and the Kowdiyar Palace into a wide avenue road. The road from Vellayampalam junction to the Mascot Hotel was also widened under the same scheme.

Aerodrome: The first landing ground for Aeroplanes in Travancore was opened at Quilon in 1108 M. E. But this was found unsuitable for the landing of planes and was therefore extended. The construction of a landing ground for Aeroplanes at Trivandrum was commenced and completed during 1 110 M. E. An experimental flight was made by Messrs. Tata & Sons, Bombay, early in 1111 M.E. Regular Air Mail Service was started subsequently and the first plane carrying mail landed at the Aerodrome on the 12th Thulam 1111 (29th October 1935.)

Railway: Negotiations for the Travancore-Tinnevelly and the Shoranore-Ernakulam Branch Railways were completed in 1073 M.E. (1897-98). The construction of other Travancore Branches of the S.I.R. was commenced in 1075 M. E. (1899-1900). The Tinnevelly- Quilon extension was almost completed and the line from Quilon to Punalar opened for traffic in 1079 M.E. (1904). But owing to the slips that occurred during the heavy rains of that year through communication was, not established till the end of November next. The total cost of constructing the Travancore Branch of the line was Rs. 1,57,71,766. The survey of a line from Quilon to Trivandrurn was completed in 1086 M.E. (1910-11) and the line was opened for traffic on the lst January 1918. The survey of a line from Quilon to Ernakulam was started. A coastal line from Quilon to Cochin via Alleppey was also under consideration.

The survey for the extension of the Railway from Trivandrum to Nagarcoil, which was commenced in 1098 M.E., was completed in 1100 M.E. (1924-25) along with that for the extension of the line from Chakkay to the heart of Trivandrum town. The reconnaissance survey of the coastal line from Mavelikara to Cochin via Alleppey was started in 1102 M.E. (1926-27). The plans and estimates for the extension from Chakkay to Thampanur were also completed and the work sanctioned in the same year. A special staff was sanctioned in 1105 M.E. (1929-30) for the preparation of the estimates and plans of all the railway lines surveyed. The State has now 98 miles of railway excluding the portion of the Ernakulam-Shoranore Railway passing through Travancore territory.

Electric Supply and Telephone: Application was made to the British Government in 1081 M.E. (1905-06) for sanction to install a line of telephone communication connecting P6ehippgra with and Telephone. other principal stations in south Travancore. This line was taken over from the British Indian Telegraph Department towards the close of 1086 M.E. (1910-11) and a new station opened at Chellanthuruthi. It is now run on the one-line system.

The question of the expansion of the Government Telephone System in the Trivandrum town was taken in hand in 1102 M.E. Negotiations wore also opened with the British Government for establishing a Trunk Telephone line between Alleppey and Cochin mainly for the convenience of mercantile and shipping interests. The installation of a telephone line between Aruvikkara and the Water-works headquarters at Trivandrum was completed and the line put into service from 1105 M. E. (1929-30) Details of the Trivandrum Telephone Exchange are given in the chapter on communications.

The Trivandrum Electric Supply Scheme was put into execution in 1103 M.E. Mr. K. P. P. P. Menon, Industrial Engineer, was put on special duty from 1-1-1103 M.E. as an Electrical Engineer in the P.W.D. The Electrical Installation of the Trivandrum town including the major portion of the distribution mains was completed in 1104.M.E. On the evening of the 25th February 1929, the Silver Jubilee of the Sri Mulam Popular Assembly, the then Dewan, Mr. M.E. Watts, in the presence of a distinguished gathering, switched on the supply and informally opened the Power House. On the 8th March 1929 the supply to the town commenced with 541 street lights and two consumers. The demand for power was encouraging and the scheme was therefore considerably developed. In 1107 M.E. i.e., since three years of its operation, a substantial return of 8.44 per cent, on the capital invested after meeting all working expenses and depreciation charges was realised. In view of the great possibilities of improving the agricultural and industrial condition of the State by inaugurating a scheme for the supply of cheap power for distribution in the industrial and rural areas, the question of investigating the various water- power sites in the hills engaged the attention of Government and a detailed investigation of the Pallivasal falls was undertaken. The preliminary investigation was completed in 1107 M.E. and the report on the prospects of the scheme was so satisfactory that Government decided to make provision for the work in 1108 M. E. and to obtain a second opinion on it from an Engineer in the Hydro Electric Development Department of the Madras Government.

The satisfactory working of the Trivandrum Electric Supply Scheme proved an incentive to other towns in the State. At Kottayam a license was granted in 1107 M. E. and the Public Electricity Supply Scheme brought into operation during the year. A license for the supply of energy to Nagercoil was also granted. The Trivandrum Electric Supply Scheme continued to be under the control of the Chief Engineer till 3-10-1108 M. E. when it was separated from the P.W.D. and constituted m a separate department. (For further details see chapter on Electric Power.)
The administration of the Department is now conducted by a Chief Electrical Engineer, a Resident Engineer at Pallivasal, an Executive Engineer at Trivandrum, two Assistant Engineers, one Sub-Engineer and two Superintendents.

Water Works and Drainage: A scheme to supply the town of Trivandrum with water was under consideration for over half a century, but Water Works and it was left to the year 1103 M.E. to witness the first beginnings of its realisation. In 1921 a report with estimate was prepared by the then Chief Engineer, Mr. F.J. Jacob, The scheme provided for the water supply from the Karamana river at Aruvikkara to a prospective population of 1,75,000 souls at the end of 1946, occupying an area of 18 square miles. The scheme was examined by Mr. J. W. Madeley, M.A., M.I.C.E. M.A, M. Soc., C.E. &c, and he suggested several modifications which necessitated a redoing of all the field work and the entire design and estimating. Mr. Madeley's recommendations were accepted and the necessary preliminary investigation and the preparation of the detailed design were ordered to be carried out. This was completed by the end of Kanni 1104. A new division for carrying out the project was formed and an Engineer was deputed to inspect water works of importance in British India. Estimates were duly prepared and sanctioned in 1104 M.E. The work was put in operation and was under the guidance and control of the Chief Engineer till 3-12-1110 M. E. when it was separated and a new Department known as the Water Works Department was formed.

Details of the various schemes are given in the chapter on the Water Works and Drainage. The controlling staff of this department consists of a Water Works and Drainage Engineer, two Executive Engineers for Water-works and an Executive Engineer for Drainage besides Assistant and Sub-Engineers and Superintendents.